WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN
It isn’t necessarily easy for coaches to change their approach, especially two as headstrong as the defensive coordinators of the Dolphins (Kevin Coyle) and Hurricanes (Mark D’Onofrio).
But players said some change is afloat with how both of them operate. The question is how much will it help.
In Coyle’s case, coach Joe Philbin asked him to “simplify” the defense.
“What happened is we had too many personnel packages, too many combinations,” Philbin said. “You want to take advantage of the strengths of your personnel. Sometimes it's hard to get the preparation down and get these guys confident in all their assignments.
"We have to shrink our personnel packages and we have to get better at our core defense. We have to have some things to hang our hat on. We have to do a better job coaching. We have to do a better job of demanding it. We're simplifying personnel wise and condensing our packages a bit."
Players have embraced the change, although those who play less as a result will not be so thrilled.
Safety Reshad Jones said it is “definitely” a smart new approach.
“It will be a lot simpler," Jones said last week. "We have a lot of Pro Bowl guys that can make plays on our defense. That's the key; make it a lot simpler for guys to just run to make plays.”
As safety Michael Thomas said: “Coach Coyle is trying to make it where we're just going out there and playing fast.”
In UM’s case, defensive end Ufomba Kamalu said D’Onofrio made some tweaks to create “more of an aggressive defense” and that the defensive ends are being “asked to get in the backfield sooner” and “just have to worry about your gap now” instead of the two-gap approach that UM has played a lot in the past.
The two-gap requires defensive linemen to line up head up against an offensive lineman and assume responsibility for the gaps on either side.
The parent of a prominent UM player said “speaking to the players, they say the defensive scheme will change [some]. You’ll see a lot more pressure that what we’ve been seeing.”
It's expected UM will continue to play both the 4-3 and the 3-4.
Without discussing specific strategic adjustments, D’Onofrio said: “We wanted to focus the group on making more progress toward the quarterback. We want to keep collapsing the pocket, keep making progress toward the quarterback.”
He said new defensive line coach Randy Melvin has done a good job conveying that new emphasis, as well as the technique needed to execute it.
But whether D’Onofrio makes any fundamental schematic changes in his defensive backfield remains to be seen; some critics believe that’s needed.
D’Onofrio has said in the past that perceptions of his defensive approach aren’t necessarily true, that UM plays more man defense with its cornerbacks than many perceive. Two players privately have said they wish D'Onofrio played more man defense.
Al Golden has strongly disputed the notion that UM at times plays its safeties too deep, though video evidence from the Georgia Tech game suggests otherwise.
Golden has said publicly several times this offseason that there will be changes in UM's approach. Coconut Creek receiver Binjimen Victor told Canesport.com recently that "they are going to change the way they do things,... but didn't say how."
Anything that better capitalizes on the pass-rushing skills of UM's talented group of defensive ends is a good start. But regardless of what Coyle and D'Onofrio change about their approach, the onus ultimately falls on the players to execute it.
### The standout quarterback whose second and third pro seasons were very, very close statistically to Ryan Tannehill’s?
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who received a contract worth $20.8 million a year and $59 million guaranteed from Atlanta in 2013. Tannehill will end up being cheaper at $16 million on average (or $19.2 million, over the last four years of the deal) and $45 million guaranteed.
Tannehill had 81.7 and 92.8 ratings in years two and three; Ryan 80.9 and 91.0.
But Ryan, while obviously a top-half-of-the-league quarterback, might have plateaued, with passer ratings of 89.6 and 93.9 the past two seasons.
If Tannehill is another Ryan longterm, that would be OK, but the Dolphins believe there’s another step Tannehill will take.
### Dolphins receiver Rishard Matthews, who has been catching passes from former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn because he’s skipping Miami’s offseason program in hopes he will be traded, tweeted: “Anyone [who] thinks I am afraid of competition has no idea who I am. I’m a seventh rounder, which means I wasn’t given anything.”
At this point, the Dolphins have no incentive to deal Matthews. but they might consider it if Matt Hazel or Christion Jones has a terrific camp and emerges as a viable No. 5 receiver.
The Dolphins love the punt/kickoff return skills of Jones, the former Alabama receiver who went undrafted. He will have a legitimate chance to win those jobs.
### The Dolphins, under Dennis Hickey, have been very respectful to veterans by informing them of some impending personnel moves that would affect them.
Before the draft, defensive line coach Terrell Williams invited the defensive linemen into a room, showed them tape of five defensive line draft prospects (including the player Miami would end up selecting, Jordan Phillips), asked their opinion (Phillips got good reviews from the players) and said Miami likely would address that position in the draft.
HEAT, MARLINS CHATTER
### With the Heat securing the 10th pick in the draft tonight, the question is whether Miami will be tempted to opt for a wing player (its clear need) even if the top player on its board at 10 happens to be a power rotation player, where Miami seems pretty well set.
Shooting guard Devin Booker (perhaps the best three-point shooter in the draft; 41.1 percent last season for Kentucky) and small forwards Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Kelly Oubre (Kansas) and Sam Dekker (Wisconsin) all warrant very strong consideration at No. 10.
Depending on their pre-draft workouts, so might Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter and Murray State point guard Cameron Payne (who would be undersized to be a shooting guard at 6-2; drafting Payne might not send a good message to Goran Dragic).
Duke's Justise Winslow and FC Barcelona's Mario Hezonja, who could be longterm solutions at small forward, aren't expected to fall to No. 10.
If Pat Riley doesn't have a conviction about any of the wing players available at No. 10, bigs expected to go in that range include Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky, Kentucky's Willie Cauley Stein and Trey Lyles, Texas' Myles Turner and perhaps Arkansas' Bobby Portis.
### The Marlins thought of the idea of trying to re-hire Jim Leyland, who led them to the 1997 World Series and in his words, hasn’t completely retired. So why didn’t they pursue it?
“Jim Leyland, Dusty Baker, Ron Washington, Ron Gardenhire -- all those guys were thought of but none of them were strongly considered,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill told me.
“We were in season and wanted someone who was intimate with our roster and had a relationship with our players. We didn't feel anyone coming from the outside had those attributes. With in-season change, that was very important.”
### When Dan Jennings told Jeffrey Loria that he was sorry he couldn’t get him a win in his first game as manager, Loria (within earshot of reporters including our Manny Navarro) told Jennings not to worry, that he managed the game exactly the way Loria would have managed it and that Loria hadn’t been able to say that in a long time.
According to two people not mentioned in this piece, some Marlins people were critical of Mike Redmond’s in-game adjustments and lack of aggressiveness.
### Though there's some skepticism around baseball because of Jennings’ lack of managing experience, Steve Cishek said Jennings' move to the dugout “is not looked at cynically [in the clubhouse] because he knows what makes us tick, knows us personally and knows this team better than anybody.”
### Jennings solicited advice from two people: longtime friend Bill Parcells (who told him to “do it your way” and be a leader) and Jennings' father (a successful high-school football coach in Alabama).
### Hill said Jose Fernandez is on track to be back pitching in the big leagues between late-June and mid-July if he has no setbacks. He will pitch a bullpen session on Wednesday, followed in the coming weeks by two simulated games, an appearance in extended spring training and an undetermined number of starts in the minors. That would take us to late-June, barring setbacks....
The Marlins, who overcame a 3-11 start to get to .500, are now back to eight games under .500 (16-24) after tonight's 4-2 loss to Arizona, dropping Miami to 0-5 on this homestand. The Marlins have scored 10 runs in those five games.